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Background to Proposals

Between 1987 and 1991, the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits divested $77 million from 17 companies doing business in South Africa. That was a significant amount in relation to the Board's portfolio at the time, yet this action was taken to bring United Methodist investment policies in line with the church's opposition to apartheid. Similar acts by many churches and municipalities helped end this terrible practice. United Methodist divestment from South Africa showed that it is possible to reassign funds to new investments that do not violate our church policies.

The General Board maintains a list of over 1500 companies it will not invest in because of their involvement in tobacco, alcohol or military activities. (Three of these...United Technologies, Oshkosh Corporation, and ITT.... are still in the Board's portfolio and are involved with Israel's occupation.) United Methodists have also used economic action against other companies whose practices violated the church's teachings on human rights. Divestment and boycotts are approved tools available to the church to affect social change in a non-violent way.

The 2008 General Conference will be considering a number of divestment proposals that deal with the conflict in the Middle East and one dealing with Sudan. These are explained below.

Used with permission from www.openbethlehem.org Concern over the situation in Sudan is widely shared within our denomination. There are terrible violations of human rights taking place in Sudan, and United Methodists should do everything in our power to stop these. Even though this is not an area where United Methodists are heavily invested, or where our tax dollars are directly responsible for sustaining the conflict, our principled action as investors could make a difference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits currently has investments in four companies that have been connected to this situation. The proposal before the General Conference asks for divestment from these companies.

Concern over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been widespread in the United Methodist Church for decades. That concern was reflected in a vote of 877 -19 at the last General Conference to approve a resolution opposing Israel's 40-year Occupation of Palestinian land. (Resolution #312)¹ This vote was taken after much careful thought and study, including visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by many United Methodists. Since this legislation passed in 2004, 134 Israelis and 2150 Palestinians have been killed2, with thousands more wounded. Approving words without putting meaningful actions behind them has not saved lives.

The General Board has significant investments in at least 9 companies that enable the occupation to continue. This means that, at present, United Methodist Boards and agencies, as well as clergy and staff who depend on these agencies for retirement income, are actually making money from the very activities the denomination seeks to end.

After prayerful consideration, six annual (regional) conferences, the Methodist Federation for Social Action and two other groups have submitted proposals to the 2008 General Conference calling for selective divestment from companies that sustain the occupation. The MFSA proposal provides a period of corporate engagement, shareholder action, and ultimately divestment if a company does not change its behavior.

The Northern Illinois Conference submitted its divestment proposal as an amendment to Resolution 312. For this reason, it is presented in the section on resolutions. It calls for phased, selective divestment beginning with dialog. The General Board of Church and Society presented two proposals, one on divestment from Caterpillar Corporation and one on divestment from companies linked to the conflict in Sudan. Both were listed as “new resolutions.” One of these, calling for divestment from Caterpillar, was withdrawn after the company issued a statement clarifying that its products are not to be used in violation of human rights, and agreed to talk with faith communities about the end use of their products in the Palestinian territories (see Update on Caterpillar Proposal).

All other divestment proposals on the Middle East that request action by boards and agencies of the church have been combined into one brief proposal under "Proposed Non-Disciplinary Legislation." It simply calls for divestment from companies that support the occupation. If passed, this proposal would be a mandate from the General Conference for these boards and agencies to act.

Some Methodists have voiced enthusiasm for joining a divestment movement sanctioned by our government and Congress, but reject divestment in which Washington does not take the lead. Yet United Methodists have never waited for the government's blessing to criticize injustice. As Washington prepares to send $30 billion of our tax money to Israel for arms and occupation, we must be as unequivocal and determined to end our role in this as we have been on other issues of human rights in the past. Christians are called to lead the world toward justice, rather than to follow those who feed injustice with their policies.

See "Double Standard on Divestment" by Joshua Ruebner at Double Standard on Divestment


  1. http://www.cmep.org/Statements/2004May_UMC.htm"
  2. As of March 20, 2008. Compiled from the following sources:
    http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/PoC_tables_Feb_08.pdf
    http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/22f431edb91c6f548525678a0051be1d/e30488464f9775608525741d0055abd1!OpenDocumenthttp://www.btselem.org/english/statistics/Casualties_Data.asp?Category=1

Proposals Before the General Conference

Proposed Non-Disciplinary Legislation

Petition Number 80132-FA-NonDis; Austin, Dale E., NY, USA for North Central New York Annual Conference; Morimoto, Roger – West Sacramento, CA. USA for California-Nevada Annual Conference; Clipp, Albert L. – Martinsburg, WV, USA for Baltimore – Washington Annual Conference; Bartlett, Laura Jaquith – Lebanon, OR, USA for Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference; Isip, Bob L. – Torrance, CA, USA for California-Pacific Annual Conference. 3 similar petitions.

Divestment

We call upon the United Methodist General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and the General Council on Finance and Administration to review and identify companies that profit from sales of products or services that cause harm to Palestinians and Israelis and begin phased selective divestment from these companies.

Rationale:

(The complete supporting statement from the North Central New York Annual Conference is printed below. Only the first 50 words were included in the mailing to delegates.)

The urgency of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be overstated. Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural lands, humiliation at checkpoints, and extended lockdowns called curfews. More than 4 million Palestinian refugees live in poverty, while Israelis live in their homes and farm their lands.

In 2003, a study funded by US A.I.D. found that more than 85% of four-year-olds in the West Bank and Gaza were not getting enough food.1

The occupation hurts Israelis as well. The number of poor Israeli children rose from 33.2 percent in 2004 to 34.1 percent in 2005. In Israel every third child lives in poverty while Israel has spent more than $14 billion on Israel's illegal West Bank settlements. (Israel's National Insurance Institute quoted by Michael Walzer in Americans for Peace Now.)

Israel continues to take the land of the Palestinian people for ever-expanding settlements, building of Israeli-only roads, and construction of the giant separation wall. Eighty three percent of the West Bank's water has been taken for Israeli use, leaving Palestinians with desperate water shortages. The Israeli Army has destroyed over 12,000 houses in the occupied territories since 1967 without warning and in violation of International Law.2 Hundreds of thousands of ancient olive trees and vast tracts of agricultural land have also been destroyed.

Israel has built a ring of Jewish settlements around Arab East Jerusalem, impeding access to the West Bank for Jerusalem's Arab residents and making it almost impossible for Palestinians to use East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, which has been called for by every major peace plan.

Palestinian Christians are being forced to leave the Holy land. Their land and water have also been taken by Israel. They now comprise less than two percent of the West Bank population, and there are very real fears that soon there will be no Christian presence in the land of Christ's birth. Those who remain are calling on Christians everywhere to reject the policies that are driving them and their Muslim neighbors from a region their ancestors have inhabited for more than 2000 years. Many recall a time when Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived in harmony together in this land, and believe it can happen again when people of all religions are accepted as equals, with full rights, liberty and property.

Our Christian faith calls us to reject violence of any kind, and to reject acts of aggression that provoke violence. As United Methodists, we are committed to work for justice, and to refuse to be complacent in the face of such monumental human suffering. We are also called to support other members of the Body of Christ around the world.

Endnotes:

  1. Resolution #312 - http://archives.umc.org/interior_print.asp?ptid=4&mid=6855
  2. Nutritional Assessment of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, 2003. Study by US A.I.D., Johns Hopkins University, Al Quds University.http:// www.usaid.gov/wby/reports/FSANS_FINAL—04Oct.pdf
  3. Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.www.icahd.org

Proposed Resolutions

Divestment and Caterpillar

[see Update On Caterpillar Proposal]

Submitted by United Methodist General Board of Church and Society

New Resolution Financial Implications: None

Proposal:

Add new resolution to the Book of Resolutions as follows:

"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

"Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are the members of my family you did it to me." Matthew 25:40

Nation-states aspire to and exist with permanent, recognized and secure borders within the community of nations. These aspirations stem from the self-determination and viability of every nation state, including equally Israel and Palestine.

In 2004 the General Conference, by a vote of 877 to 19, voted to resolve that, "The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a 'Greater Israel' that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings;" [Book of Resolutions, 2004, #312].

We have a special concern for our fellow Christians living in the Holy Land of Christ's birth. Severe hardship and economic deprivation mark daily life under the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Many thousands have emigrated, reducing the crucial Christian presence almost to a faithful remnant.

Bulldozers and other heavy equipment manufactured and sold by Caterpillar, Inc., as well as equipment supplied by others to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been, and are still used for the illegal destruction of Palestinian homes, orchards and olive groves in the Occupied Territories, and to clear Palestinian land for illegal Israeli settlements, segregated roads and the “Separation Barrier.” Despite years of corporate engagement by investors to change its policies, Caterpillar continues its role in the occupation.

Equipment sold by Caterpillar is known to be refitted for use in the destruction of property that has resulted in the loss of life. We call upon all Christians of good conscience to join us in applying every peaceful form of economic, political and social pressure at their disposal, including but not limited to divestment, product avoidance or boycott, moral suasion and shareholder action, to persuade Caterpillar to cease and desist such sales.

The United Methodist Book of Resolutions states our policy on "Avoidance by Divestment" to wit: "This policy prohibits investment in enterprises that have policies or practices that are so morally reprehensible that investment in these companies is not tolerated by the church. Our denomination traditionally has avoided investments in liquor, tobacco, and gambling. Historically many church investors have refused to invest in major military contractors, companies with nuclear weapons contracts, or companies when they were doing business in South Africa under apartheid. In some cases, they have divested of such companies, making public their action as a moral statement."

We are committed to ensuring that our denomination's finances are used in a manner consistent with Christ's teaching, our beliefs, multi-lateral agreements and international law. Therefore the General Conference directs general agencies, annual conferences, local churches, Conference Boards of Pensions, United Methodist Foundations and all others who invest United Methodist funds to divest of all equity and debt holdings of Caterpillar, Inc. by January 1, 2009.

We ask every United Methodist to prayerfully consider taking the same action with the personal and pension assets under their control, and request that other investment managers such as mutual fund companies, pension plans and bank trustees do the same.

Bishop Beverly J. Shamana, President James Winkler, General Secretary
100 Maryland Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
jwinkler@umc-gbcs.org 202.488.5636

Divestment and Sudan

Submitted by General Board of Church and Society

Financial Implications: None

Proposal:

Add new resolution to the Book of Resolutions as follows:

"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."Amos 5:24

Resolution 296, Guidelines for the Imposition of Sanctions, reminds us that “sanctions, in whatever form, lay conditions upon love and on the extension of humanitarian aid and succor; they fall short of the gospel imperative for unconditional love. Yet sanctions as political and economic tools of pressure and leverage can play a critical role in the mitigation and deterioration of conflicts. It is in this sense that sanctions are sometimes seen as a more tolerable alternative to war."

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur is well documented. The United Methodist Church has called repeatedly for action to end this crisis, and has worked hard to alleviate suffering on the ground. Additional steps are needed to bring economic pressure on the government of Sudan to end the genocide.

The Sudanese government is susceptible to well-placed economic pressure because of its dependence upon direct foreign investment. For example, in 2002 when the Canadian company Talisman led others oil companies in withdrawing from Sudan the Khartoum regime entered into negotiations that finally ended the country's 21-year civil war.

According to the Sudan Divestment Task Force, a project of the Genocide Intervention Network, "divestment is still likely to disproportionately affect the government of Sudan since Khartoum allocates little government revenue towards social spending." Most development and relief programs are financed largely by international humanitarian concerns. Therefore, a targeted divestment from companies doing business with the Sudanese government is unlikely to harm those in need.

U.S. government policy has eased most investment restrictions related to South Sudan, while maintaining a ban on oil investment in the entire country. Such targeted divestment promotes strict criteria for oil companies throughout Sudan, but otherwise relaxes standards for most other kinds of investment necessary in South Sudan. Companies that provide agricultural, consumer and educational products and services also engage in commerce that benefits the people of Sudan directly. Investment in these corporations provide positive alternatives to those whose products and services are primarily consumed by the government and military forces.

The United Methodist Church should not own or profit from companies whose products or services are used by corrupt governments or regimes to murder, suppress, or displace it citizens and neighbors. Therefore the General Conference directs general agencies, annual conferences, local churches, Conference Boards of Pensions, United Methodist Foundations and all others who invest United Methodist funds to divest of all equity and debt holdings of companies doing business with the government of Sudan.

We ask every United Methodist to prayerfully consider taking the same action with the personal and pension assets under their control, and request that other investment managers such as mutual fund companies, pension plans and bank trustees do the same.

Bishop Beverly J. Shamana, President
James Winkler, General Secretary
100 Maryland Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
jwinkler@umc-gbcs.org
202.488.5636

Peace and Justice in the Holy Land

R. 312 - Submitted by Jack E. Ryder, LaGrange Park, Il., USA for Northern Illinois Annual Conference.

Proposal:

Add to Resolution 312:

Be it resolved that the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church calls upon the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and the General Council on Finance & Administration to review the investments of the church and undertake a process of phased, selective divestment (beginning with dialogue) from any multinational corporations profiting from activities, including: any violence in the area; demolition of Palestinian homes; construction of the wall; continuing the occupation; institutions that perpetrate or support violence against Israelis, or; confiscation of Palestinian land; following United Methodist guidelines which require a period of information gathering and evaluation of alternative means of economic intervention.

Be it further resolved, that the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, using traditional shareholder advocacy tools, request that selected corporations doing business in Israel and Palestine evaluate the implementation of their respective Codes of Business Conduct and prepare a public report documenting the findings. The General Board, in keeping with its practice of public disclosure and transparency, will report actions to influence corporate behavior on its web site.

Be it further resolved, that the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits and other investors associated with The United Methodist Church invest in "companies....that make a positive contribution toward the realization of goals outlined in the Social Principles..." and that divestment be considered when other significant shareholder actions have been exhausted. The General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits is encouraged to use its financial leverage to push for high standards of accountability among corporations conducting business in regions of the world with civil and political unrest.

Be it further resolved, that the 2008 General Conference calls upon the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society to initiate a study of the feasibility of advocating for other organizations to become involved in phased, selective divestment from any multinational corporations profiting from the illegal and violent activities noted above. We pray that this resolution will give hope to Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, including our Christian counterparts in the region, and let them know they are not forgotten.

Other Proposals Submitted to General Conference

The proposals below have been combined by the Petitions Secretary into one sentence, listed under "Divestment" in "Proposed Non-Disciplinary Legislation" at the beginning of this section. These include a number of very different proposals, and the original wording of these is provided below.

Methodist Federation for Social Action Petition

Promoting Peace through Ethical Investment

The following petition was submitted to General Conference by the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA). It was not printed in the book of legislation that all delegates received prior to General Conference, but it will be considered as a separate measure at the conference.


PETITION TEXT:

WHEREAS, Resolution # 312 of the 2004 United Methodist Book of Resolutions affirms and supports Israel's right to exist within secure borders, the right of Palestinians to self-determination and the formation of a viable state, and a just solution for Palestinian refugees,

WHEREAS, there is an urgent and growing humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people including lack of access to health care, extreme poverty, malnutrition, water shortages and the inability to farm agricultural lands,

WHEREAS resources that might be used for needed domestic programs in Israel are diverted instead to maintain the occupation of Palestine and the militarization of the Israeli society,

WHEREAS, according to the Israeli Human Rights group B'TSELEM [1] as of September 2007, 1,024 Israelis and 4,274 Palestinians have died since September of 2000.

WHEREAS, we acknowledge and lament the pain and suffering of both peoples and cannot, in sound Christian conscience, be silent in the face of that suffering.

WHEREAS, the destruction of Palestinian homes and confiscation of Palestinian land is made possible by the use of armored bulldozers, helicopter gunships, tanks and other equipment that may have been purchased from the U.S. corporations in which the United Methodist Church may hold investments,

WHEREAS, by a vote of 877 to 19, the General Conference in 2004 voted to resolve that, "The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a 'greater Israel' that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings," (Book of Resolutions, 2004, #312).

WHEREAS, United Methodist policy "prohibits investment in enterprises that have policies or practices that are so morally reprehensible that investment in these companies is not tolerated by the church.” [Book of Resolutions, 2004, #213.1, "Avoidance by Divestment"

WHEREAS, The 2004 Book of Discipline states, "It shall be the policy of The United Methodist Church that all general boards and agencies, including the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, and all administrative agencies and institutions, including hospitals, homes, educational institutions, annual conferences, foundations, and local churches, shall, in the investment of money...endeavor to avoid investments that appear likely, directly or indirectly, to support violation of human rights...The boards and agencies are to give careful consideration to shareholder advocacy, including advocacy of corporate disinvestment" (2004 Book of Discipline, ¶ 716),

WHEREAS, many Annual conferences, in the past three years have adopted resolutions calling for General Conference and the whole United Methodist Church to divest from companies that support, and profit from, ongoing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land and other longstanding violations of human rights,

WHEREAS, the New England Annual Conference in June 2007, after two years of extensive research, published a list of 20 companies that it recommended for divestment,

WHEREAS, divestment as a longstanding policy of The United Methodist Church and other ecumenical partners, constitutes a form of nonviolent, moral, economic means of seeking to change unjust corporate behavior - in this case, for ending all corporate support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories,

WHEREAS, 40 years of military occupation and the continued seizing of more and more land for illegal settlements, constitutes both justice delayed and justice denied to more than two generations of Palestinians,

Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2008 General Conference calls upon the UMC General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, and all general boards, administrative agencies and institutions, including hospitals, homes, educational institutions, annual conferences, foundations, and local churches to undertake the following process of phased, selective divestment from companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and other violations of human rights in Palestine/Israel:

  1. review their investment portfolios and within six months identify a list of companies that are supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories or that violate the human rights of Palestinians or Israelis, and to publish, maintain and distribute the list and constantly re-evaluate the relationship of companies to the occupation and human rights violations in the region, guided by Resolution #213, "Investment Ethics" (2004 United Methodist Book of Resolutions, p. 554-559),
  2. before placing a company on the list, the Board of Pensions in cooperation with other general agencies should write to that company, explain our concerns as United Methodists, and request a change in the company's relationship to the Israeli occupation.
  3. If no change in policy is reported within 60 days as being taken or contemplated, the company's name should be placed immediately on the divestment list along with explanatory details and shared with the whole church;
  4. Once a company is placed on the list, no further stock shall be purchased until that company ends its activities that support the occupation; United Methodist general agencies and institutions should use currently held stock for shareholder actions and other forms of socially responsible action in keeping with the Investment Ethics policy, #213 in the 2004 Book of Resolutions. If a company continues to refuse to change its activities then after two years, all remaining stock shall be divested until such time as the company ends its support of Israel's occupation;
  5. That the General Boards of Pensions "Health Benefits, Global Ministries, and Church" Society, work in cooperation with the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical and human rights partners to coordinate nonviolent, moral efforts to end all corporate support for occupation and human rights violations in Palestine/Israel;

Be it further resolved that The United Methodist Church at the same time supports positive investments that promote capacity building in partnership with poor and marginalized communities in Palestine/Israel, that fulfill the Call to Action in 2004 Resolution #206 "Economic Justice for a New Millennium" (#206, p. 538),

Be it further resolved that we ask every United Methodist to prayerfully consider taking the same action with the personal and pension assets under their control, and request that other investment manages such as mutual fund companies, pension plans, and bank trustees to the same.

Be it further resolved that we affirm our longstanding support of Christian presence in the Holy Land through forms of economic support and investment.

[1] B'TSELEM: www.btselem.org Statistics from 9/29/2000 - 9/24/2007.

DATE: October 26, 2007

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